The Empty Cup
Evening at Occoquan. Rain pelts the workhouse roof.
The prison matrons are sewing together for the Red Cross
The women prisoners are going to bed in two long rows.
Some of the suffrage pickets lie reading in the dim light.
Through the dark, above the rain, rings out a cry.
We listen at the windows. (Oh, those cries from punishment cells!)
A voice calls one of us by name.
“Miss Burns! Miss Burns! Will you see that I have a drink of water?”
Lucy Burns arises; slips on the course blue prison gown.
Over it her swinging hair, red-gold, throws a regal mantle.
She begs the night-watch to give the girl water.
One of the matrons leaves her war-bandages; we see her hasten to the cell.
The light in it goes out.
The voice despairing cries:
“She has taken away the cup and she will not bring me water.”
Rain pours on the roof. The suffragists lie awake.
The matrons work busily for the Red Cross.
This poem is in the public domain.
Katharine Rolston Fisher
Katharine Rolston Fisher was born in North Adams, Massachusetts, on October 20, 1871. A suffrage activist and writer, she is thought to have been brought on as an assistant editor of The Suffragist in 1915. She was arrested for picketing for voting rights in 1917 and was sentenced to thirty days in the Occoquan workhouse. Fisher also worked as the recording secretary of the Washington, D.C. branch of the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage; as a government clerk at the Suffragist House; and at the U.S. War Risk Bureau. She died in Westborough, Massachusetts, on January 1, 1950.
Date Published: 1918-11-30
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/empty-cup